A lost receipt, and loss of perspective

There was a missing receipt at work, and administration was frantically looking for it. At first I insisted I didn’t have it. But it turns out I had misplaced it. The receipt was on my desk—in the wrong pile—the whole time. Once I found it I turned it in and apologized. But I felt embarrassedContinue reading “A lost receipt, and loss of perspective”

Book review: How to Be a Stoic by Massimo Pigliucci

If you’re interested in the philosophy of Stoicism, Massimo Pigliucci’s How to Be a Stoic is the place to start. Don’t let the fact that it’s philosophy stop you – Pigliucci’s conversational, straightforward writing style makes Stoicism easily accessible. Donald Robertson’s Stoicism and the Art of Happiness is also a good introduction. But while Robertson is moreContinue reading “Book review: How to Be a Stoic by Massimo Pigliucci”

David Hume on Stoicism

Interest in Stoicism didn’t end in ancient times only to be revived today. David Hume was an eighteenth century Scottish philosopher who had a lot to say about a lot of things. And one of them was Stoicism. Instead of focusing on Hume’s essay “The Stoic” (which Massimo Pigliucci has addressed), I’m going to look atContinue reading “David Hume on Stoicism”

Is reason overrated?

That we are primarily driven by emotions seems obvious to most of us. But even before Plato some have believed that with a little effort we can – and should – make reason primary. Is that even possible? Seneca, writing On Anger, says anger is temporary insanity because it shuts off rational deliberation. Emotions easilyContinue reading “Is reason overrated?”

Marcus Aurelius: Kindness

Human nature, according to Stoic philosophers, is not only rational but social. From Meditations by Marcus Aurelius We are social beings You participate in society by your existence. Then participate in its life through your actions — all your actions. Any action not directed toward a social end (directly or indirectly) is a disturbance to yourContinue reading “Marcus Aurelius: Kindness”

Marcus Aurelius: Anger & fear

Stoicism is not about repressing emotions — it’s about not allowing emotion to override reason. But emotions such as anger and fear most easily override reason. From Meditations by Marcus Aurelius Put it in perspective Why feel anger at the world? It’s not like the world would notice (7.38). When you lose your temper, or even feelContinue reading “Marcus Aurelius: Anger & fear”

Marcus Aurelius: Praise & criticism

Stoic advice not to value people’s praise or criticism doesn’t mean disdaining others. From Meditations by Marcus Aurelius What other people think is not your problem Someone despises me? That’s their problem. I should not do or say anything despicable. Someone hates me? That’s their problem. I should be patient and cheerful with everyone, including them,Continue reading “Marcus Aurelius: Praise & criticism”

Marcus Aurelius: Pleasure & pain

Stoics and Epicureans have serious disagreements about pleasure and pain. Marcus Aurelius articulates why the Stoic view is best for human flourishing. From Meditations by Marcus Aurelius Don’t fear pain or seek pleasure The human soul degrades itself when it is overpowered by pleasure or pain (2.16). To fear pain is to fear something that’s bound toContinue reading “Marcus Aurelius: Pleasure & pain”

Marcus Aurelius: Virtue, good, & evil

Reason and mindfulness must have a focus. That’s why virtue is Stoicism’s centerpiece. Virtue as the ultimate good, rather than being subordinate to pleasure,  is a key point of disagreement between Stoics and Epicureans. From Meditations by Marcus Aurelius What is good or bad? Good or bad for rational and social beings lies not in feeling butContinue reading “Marcus Aurelius: Virtue, good, & evil”

Marcus Aurelius: Mindfulness

Mindfulness is another overlap between Stoicism and Buddhism. From Meditations by Marcus Aurelius External things aren’t the problem Don’t be driven this way and that, but always behave with justice and see things as they are (4.22). The things you think about determine the quality of your mind. Your soul takes on the color of yourContinue reading “Marcus Aurelius: Mindfulness”